Elisha Barber: Book One Of The Dark Apostle

BOOK: Elisha Barber: Book One Of The Dark Apostle
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E
LISHA
B
ARBER

BOOK ONE OF
The Dark Apostle

E. C. A
MBROSE

Copyright © 2013 by E. C. Ambrose.

All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-101-63614-5

Jacket art by Cliff Nielsen.

Jacket design by G-Force Design.

Book designed by The Barbarienne’s Den.

DAW Books Collector’s No. 1625.

DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

All characters in the book are fictitious.

Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

First Hardcover Printing, July 2013

  
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. OFF AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
—MARCA REGISTRADA
HECHO EN U.S.A.
Acknowledgments

This book would not have begun without the instruction of two teachers. First, Jeanne Cavelos of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, who introduced me to the joys of research. Next, Dan Brown, through his workshop at the Seacoast Writers’ Group, who taught about tension.

Thanks are due, as well, to the marvelous team at DAW Books, especially my editors, Josh, who saw what this book could be, and Betsy, who helped us to get it there. I owe Barbara Campbell for the introduction, and my agent, Cameron McClure, for making it stick.

Luc Reid, founder of the Codex neo-pro online writers’ group, and many of the members thereof for their support and enthusiasm. In particular, medical research advisor D. T. Friedman, without whom the surgical scenes would be much less realistic.

Others whose support came at just the right time include Cat Rambo and Sean Wallace, Ruth Nestvold, James Patrick Kelly, and the YMCA Goffstown climbers: Casey, Brendan, Daisy, Jonathan, Abby and Lauren, whose rapt attention I will never forget.

Finally, my family, who endured hair-raising drives in England, visits to torture museums, weekends at conventions, and hours of vacant stares punctuated by random plot discoveries. You know what this book means to me, and I would not be here without you.

“For the life of man is perishable and transitory,
and the wickedness of man abounds in the world—woe is me!”

—J
EAN DE
V
ENETTE

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 1

“Y
ou sent her
to the hospital?” Elisha whirled to face his brother, the razor still in his fist. “My God, man, what were you thinking?”

“The midwife couldn’t help her, Elisha, and she’s in such awful pain, for the babe won’t come,” Nathaniel stammered, his pale hands clenched together. He ducked in the low door of the draper’s quarters, his fair hair brushing the carved oak of the lintel. “The neighbors carried her over while I came here.”

“But the hospital? That place is deadly.” Elisha set his razor again at his customer’s chin, deftly shearing a narrow stretch of the full, and now unfashionable, beard. “What did she say?”

“Not so fast, if you don’t mind. I care to keep my chin today, Barber,” the draper snapped.

“Helena?” Nathaniel asked, his face a mask of anguish and confusion.

“No, you fool, the midwife!” Elisha slapped the razor through the water basin and plied it again, forcing himself to slow down. Last thing he needed was to carve the ear off the master of the drapers’ guild.

Sagging, his brother balanced himself against the wall, scrubbing at his sweaty face. “The babe’s turned, and wedged somehow. She thought the physicians—”

At the mention of physicians, Elisha froze. The draper glowered up at him from his best leather chair, but his brother’s wife lay in the hospital, contracting God-knew-what illness added to her condition. For a moment, his conflicting duties trapped him—but Helena needed him, if it weren’t already too
late. The draper could abide. Flinging down his razor, Elisha roughly dried his hands on his britches. “The physicians never enter the hospital if they can advise from afar. Nobody who can afford their services goes to the hospital.” He popped open the window frame nearest and flung out the dirty water.

The draper rubbed a hand across his chin and jerked it back with a cry of dismay. “You’ve not finished the job, Barber. I’ve still got half a beard!”

“Then you owe me half my fee,” Elisha told him. He snatched his towel from the man’s neck and spun on his heel, basin tucked under his arm. The razor he folded with a snap and gripped until his fingers hurt. “Why did you not come for me sooner?” he asked, dropping his voice to a murmur.

Instantly, Nathaniel straightened, taking advantage of his superior height. “I think you know why.”

For a moment, their eyes met, and Nathaniel swallowed but gave no ground to his elder brother. Elisha had caused the breach that lay between them. He had apologized, but Nathaniel’s presence here was as close as he would come to forgiveness.

They had the same intense blue gaze, though Elisha’s own hair was near black and bound into a practical queue. Elisha straightened broad shoulders and flashed a furious grin. “Then let’s be off while your wife yet lives.”

Nathaniel stumbled out the door as Elisha bore down upon him.

“I’ll be to your order about this!” The draper squawked, pushing himself up. “You’ll not practice in this city again.”

Rounding on the man, Elisha said, “I hope they’ll consider a woman’s life of more value than half a beard.”

“A whore’s life,” the draper answered, then stepped back as Elisha held up the razor, still gripped in his fist. His mobile face registered his regret, but Elisha was in no mood to play the draper’s game.

“Helena,” Elisha said in a low and terrible voice, “is a whore no longer, but you’ll be a bugger for the rest of your life, so I’ll ask you to keep your threats to yourself.”

Pale, the man’s jaw dropped, his half-beard bisecting his lips.

As he turned to follow his brother, Elisha thought it a fitting image, half a beard for a man with a double life. No, the order would hear of nothing from him for a variety of reasons.

Anger was easy. It gave Elisha the distance he needed from those he must treat—and
those who might die. Distance, too, from dangerous friends. Elisha would have to apologize at some point, but the draper would be a little more careful suggesting his attraction to his next barber. It would be safer for them both.

Elisha descended the narrow stairs at a run, jumping the last few to street level, emerging between the draper’s shop and the neighboring woolery. Nathaniel hovered anxiously in the street, turning away toward the hospital, but only after the relief showed plain upon his face.

Elisha might have found that expression of relief touching at another time, a time when he was more certain of his skill. As it stood, he’d not dealt much with childbirth, though he’d had more experience with it than most barbers, in the course of his work as the favored surgeon of Codpiece Alley. And even there, many of the whores refused to accept the service of a man, or would take advice only but no examination. Curious, that they who spent their love at the whim of strangers should turn prudish when it came to the touch of an examiner’s hand. Most at least knew the herbs to take to avoid unwanted children, else they were cast out by their keepers to give birth in the streets—or, heaven forbid, in the hospital. Elisha’s fury flared again. His brother should have known better.

BOOK: Elisha Barber: Book One Of The Dark Apostle
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